Box Office Flashback: January – Corrupt Cops, A Classic Cartoon, And An Important Book

One-hundred-plus years of film-making provides a long, rich, and deep history to look back on. Retro reviews and analysis of old films are practically necessary full-time specialties. Month after month, films release, vying to grab as much attention as possible en route to great financial success. Some rise, some fall, but regardless of box office numbers, some films transcend and rake in pop culture currency for decades.

Let’s take a look back ten, twenty, and thirty years at the biggest movies released in January.

1990 • Internal Affairs27.7 Million

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Superheroes dominate the box office today, but in the early 90s, thrillers captured many of the dollars at movie theaters. We had Basic Instinct, Cape Fear, and Single White Female between 1991 and 1992 alone. A year earlier was Internal Affairs, which featured Richard Gere playing a corrupt cop and Andy Garcia playing the officer investigating Gere. Not sure how many even remember this movie, but it took the box office win for the month over a beloved film that’s spawned six sequels and a TV spinoff — Tremors. The action flick starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward took only 16.6 million at the box office but went on to super-cult status that’s likely not going to end any time soon. Cut Tremors’ box office take in half, and you get third place, a comedy film called Ski Patrol.

Of note is the fourth place release this month, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Horror sequels never die!

2000Fantasia 200059.8 Million


Ah, 2000, a time before Disney owned Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and 80 percent of the box office. At this time, Disney was cranking out mostly mediocre films while re-purposing older, much more successful animated films for a modest profit. Remember Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas? Not many do. But that was Disney at this time (and arguably still?), and in January of 2000, they took the box office crown with an update to their acclaimed classic film Fantasia. The sequel, aptly titled, Fantasia 2000, got a digital makeover and added a few new parts. It just barely won the box office title over Next Friday, the sequel to the gangsta comedy Friday, which took in 57.3 million.

After that, though, things go off the deep end. In third place for the month was My Dog Skip at 34.1 million, followed by Down To You in fourth place at 20 million. That’s January for you.

2010 • Book of Eli94.8 Million

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Just ten Januaries ago, we were still only one Marvel movie in, and the month was its usual peculiar self for movie releases. Book of Eli starred Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis in a post-apocalyptic quandary to save the Bible. Directed by the Hughes Brothers, the film didn’t receive critical success but does linger on in the memory of pop culture movie fans.

Taking a look at the rest of the month, you’ll notice that Book of Eli had some interesting competition. Trailing by 30+ million is Tooth Fairy, a film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, as the titular character. It was a strange time, indeed. Mel Gibson returned to a leading role during this month with Edge of Darkness, which took in 43.3 domestically and 81 million worldwide against a budget of 80 million. No bueno.

Two more cult favorites came out this month though. The first was Legion, the film starring Paul Bethany as an angel fighting the wrath of God and all his other angels. Also, Daybreakers, the future-noir vampire story featuring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe.

January 2020

The Grudge is already out and not getting the best reviews. But January is undoubtedly the month where anything goes. The horror franchise is popular, and it could eke out a victory over Dolittle starring Tony Stark’s alter-ego Robert Downey, Jr. But this month is surprisingly loaded with possible winners. Underwater is the deep-sea horror flick starring Kristin Stewart. Who knows, right? On January 17, Bad Boys 4 Life goes head-to-head with Dolittle. A week later, The Turning, another horror film starring Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things, crawls into theaters.

My prediction …

It’s tough to call. Bad Boys seems tacked on here which might mean the studio has little faith in the film. But that doesn’t mean it might not be a hit. Robert Downey is testing the power of his celebrity. He might turn out to be the winner here with Dolittle though family movies don’t tend to do as well in January since the kids are back at school and parents back at work. The Turning could turn out to be the sleeper success here.

What do you think will be the biggest money-maker released in January?

Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.